After receiving an impressive snowfall here in Ypsilanti, I’ve decided to make one of my favorite albums available for free streaming. You can find the complete album of Bill Van Loo “6 strings for a winter’s day” available now on SoundCloud. Check out the chromedecay album page for more information about this record of ambient guitar improvisations.
Since I’ve been stalled on working on my new album’s worth of material for a while (over a year, actually!), I thought it would be fun to get inspiration by pulling some gear together in a new way and adding a few new pieces together. Hence, a new pedalboard for guitar!
Here’s a video overview, and below that are some detail photos of the new setup.
Click photos for larger view.
This is the best summary I can show of how the work is going so far on the new solo record:
That’s 12 sketches worth of music, all of which have Ableton Live sessions started for them, tempos defined, and rough mixes rendered. That’s not to say that these are completed by any stretch – far from it! This is really just the beginning. Now begins the interesting work of fleshing out, writing, recording, and turning these sketches into compositions and songs.
Here’s the video update for this month and a few more behind-the-scenes photos.
More work this month on the new Bill Van Loo solo record. Like February, this was also a busy month outside of music. Much of this month was spent using the Zoom H4n recorder as an audio sketchpad, capturing song and sound texture ideas in the small spaces and in-between moments of the month.
Here’s a short behind-the-scenes video from recording one of these sketches, and a few photos from the process.
I also wanted to write a few words about both the process and the concept for this record. Most of my previous work as a solo artist has been doing strictly instrumental electronic music. The biggest departures from that were the two ambient guitar records I produced (“6 strings for a winter’s day“, and “the ghost of an idea“), and even those use lots of electronic production.
As you may be able to gather from my talk of “songs”, and from all the guitar you see me playing in these videos, this new record will be a departure, or perhaps an evolution, from my electronic music. There will still be electronic production and sounds, and a big focus on the textures that are a defining part of my previous work. However, I’m really excited to work on some songs for this record.
One of the most helpful things I’ve ever read as a creative person was Twyla Tharp’s “The Creative Habit“. In her book, Tharp talks about knowing how you see the world and how that translates in your art. I realized that I tend toward the wide-angle view, taking in textures, ambience, setting, season, and location. The titles of my previous work is a testament to that (“Autumn DSP”, “6 strings for a winter’s day”, “raindays”, etc).
This new work, in the other hand, seeks to build up that backdrop of location and ambience, and put something personal and intimate in front of that. Not everything in the record will likely have lyrics and singing, but some of it will. This is shaping up to be the most personal record I’ve ever made, and I am excited about the possibilities of it.
Work continues on the new Bill Van Loo solo record, albeit at a slower pace than hoped for. This was a particularly busy month outside of music. Regardless, I was able to get a number of fragments and ideas captured, which falls nicely in line with my process thus far. Here’s a short video update and some behind-the-scenes photos.
Here’s the first month’s update on the new Bill Van Loo solo record that is in the works. As announced at the beginning of January, this new album is being recorded over the course of 2012, with an update to be released at the end of each month.
Bill Van Loo announces his new album project, due to be recorded over the course of 2012:
Here are some recent projects I’ve been working on. After receiving a Big Muff guitar pedal from my cousin Jamie (from The Press Delete), I started thinking more about building up a pedalboard again for my guitar playing. I’ve been quite happy with the Line 6 PodXT Live, but there’s something special about guitar pedals: they typically do one thing, and do it well.
As such, I got out my case of unused guitar pedals and started going through them. I ended up selling one (an old graphic EQ pedal that I never used any more) and looked more closely at the other two. I have 3 pedals currently: the Big Muff clone, an Arion SAD-1 analog delay pedal, and an Arion SCH-1 chorus pedal. Combined with my practice amp (a Vox Pathfinder 15R), I’d have a fuzztone, chorus, delay, tremolo (built into the amp, and quite nice!) and spring reverb (also built into the amp, and also really nice!). This suits my style of playing pretty well, so I figured it was worth doing a bit of repair work to get the two Arion pedals in good shape.
Both Arion pedals needed new 9V battery clips, which is an easy repair – snip off the old ends, trim a new Radio Shack 9V clip to size, twist the wires together, and solder. Easily done:
Arion SCH-1 analog chorus: 9V clip fixed!
I also had to remove the bad potentiometer from the SAD-1 analog delay pedal, so I did that while repairing the 9V clip:
I now have to locate a source for a new potentiometer that fits the SAD-1, which may prove difficult. Worst case, I end up getting a new enclosure for the pedal and rehousing it completely. That wouldn’t be all bad, as the existing enclosure is plastic, but it would mean spending more money and time on this little guy. The analog delay is really nice, though, so I think it will be worth it in the end.
I also started thinking about the Bliptronic 5000 music box (see related 52 things posts “42/52: Bliptronic 5000!” and “43/52: new video – ‘a bliptronic day’“). I like it a lot, but the 1/8″ miniplug output means having to use a cable with an adapter to change it to 1/4″ if I’m going to plug it into a mixer or my audio interface. I think having a 1/4” output jack instead might be nice, so I opened it up to see how feasible it is:
Verdict? It’s incredibly tight in there. I might be able to squeeze a 1/4″ jack in there, but it’s going to be tight. I may have to re-route the headphone output if I do put one in. I’m still undecided about whether or not I’ll pursue that. Lots of other mods are possible, so I may wait before tackling a more ambitious project with the bliptronic and roll the 1/4″ output into a larger project.
During the year, I accomplished quite a bit. For starters, I made some new chromedecay and solo releases available (8/52, 9/52,10/52). This was a big accomplishment, as I find it really rewarding to work on music, but often quite hard to do the hard work of finishing it and making it available.
As part of this project, I spoke at the Maker Faire Detroit’s Ignite session. This was a nice mid-year chance to reflect on the project and talk about the motivations for doing it. It was a great experience.
I didn’t set out to to this, but as I worked on more photography projects, I decided to start a new photography business! This process really helped me define what I enjoy about photography, and helped clarify my vision about what relates to chromedecay and what should be personal or commercial work. The final project this year points toward that, as I will be working on making a series of chromedecay photographic prints available in 2011.
In addition to photos, I also made some video art (39/52 and 43/52). The power of the Canon HDDSLR camera I’m shooting with makes it possible to produce HD video with small, easy-to-use equipment and that’s made the video production and editing process more enjoyable than I’ve ever experienced.
I still didn’t get every project on the list done (witness the still half-completed DIY USB foot controller!) but that’s OK.
So, what are my plans for my personal projects and for chromedecay in 2011? Well, on a personal note I’ll be building my photography business, which has become a nice way to push myself as a photographer and hopefully make some money to cover the cost of gear and build up my independent business. I have lots of other personal projects lined up as well.
For chromedecay, several things will be the immediate focus. One thing that I touched on this year was the company7 project I’m involved in with friends of mine. Our band will be meeting weekly this year to work on new material, and if last week’s first scheduled rehearsal is any indication, it will be an extremely productive year. This is definitely pushing me in lots of directions, as I’m playing guitar, recording, doing production and electronics programming, and capturing the whole experience in photos and video. My goal is to have a finished EP released on chromedecay later in 2011.
In the more immediate future, I will be releasing a series of chromedecay photographic prints for purchase by the end of January. This is something I’d wanted to do for a long time, and with encouragement by Joshua Schnable and the last project in the series, I can now see more clearly how I want to structure it. Look for that soon.
Now, I’m off to shoot photos of The Press Delete (previous photos I’ve shot of them were week 41’s project). They are playing at the Mittenfest festival here in Ypsilanti.
Thank you for a wonderful 2010, and here’s to a great 2011!